Dave Nichols has been a bilateral amputee for nearly half a century. He’s fluid in his walk, with full range of motion in his knees, although his legs were blown off below the knee in a landmine explosion during his tour in Vietnam in 1970.
At the same time, the Army veteran feels it is unfair for him to tell other amputees how to live their lives, especially if he doesn’t fully understand their physical and emotional challenges. But if he did give advice to a fellow disabled vet, he would say there are many adaptive programs they can take advantage of to stay active.
“After years of being like this, I look at my disability more like a job,” Nichols says. “I take the emotional aspect out of it. You want to do the best job you can. It’s a job with no vacation. It’s about being innovative. It’s about adapting to equipment or keeping yourself in shape, making sure you work out.
“The biggest thing is the living room couch. If you don’t get off the couch, you’re done. Once you get out and about, you find that people will look at you as just another person. They’re going to look at you as somebody out there doing your best. People sometimes are afraid to approach you. But with a little nonverbal communication, you keep a smile on your face. Don’t walk around like you don’t want to talk to anybody.”
Nichols has been incredibly active. He’s been an avid golfer, a skier and ski instructor, and a boxing coach who has sparred. He recently took up pickleball, which includes elements of tennis, table tennis, and badminton.
A year-round special events competitor, Nichols at VA’s Summer Sports Clinic.
He’s looking forward to participating in the VA 2019 National Veterans Golden Age Games, June 5-10, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. At 69 years old, he’ll be competing in golf, pickleball, badminton, and the javelin throw. He’s taken part in the Golden Age Games for nearly a decade and has won medals in golf and javelin.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Nichols says. “I like to compete. But more than anything, I like the social interaction. I want to get out there and do my very best. Being an amputee motivates me a little bit. But if I don’t win, I’m not upset. At my age, I’m just lucky I’m out there doing it.”
In 1970, Army private first-class Nichols was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade as it cleared out an enemy base camp in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam when enemy fighters detonated a landmine. The explosion left Nichols with what he describes as an “out-of-body experience.”
“One second, you’re walking and talking to infantrymen and you feel confident,” explains Nichols, who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service. “The next thing, you’re on the ground without any feet. You feel like, `What now?’ It’s like you have to create a whole new image of yourself. You don’t know who you are anymore.”
Nichols in Vietnam.
Nichols spent nine months in the hospital. Having suffered no nerve or muscle damage in his knees in the explosion, he was able to retain a lot of his balance and the ability to climb ramps and stairs.
“I’ve been walking with prosthetics now for 48 years,” he says. “I’m ambulatory. I don’t have a wheelchair or anything like that.”
Today, Nichols is in great shape at 5 feet 9 inches, and 150 pounds. A resident of Stone Ridge, New York, he golfs in the Eastern Amputee Golf Association. He’s up to about a 14 handicap, after once being between an eight and nine. He chalks up the decline to not playing much recently because of his involvement with other sports like skiing.
He skis in Windham, New York, and teaches people with disabilities how to ski.
With a wife, three kids, and three grandchildren, he finds that life has been good to him.
“There are days when I get up and go, `It’s going to be a rough day,'” he says. “But normally everything is fine. I’m going all day. I’ve been very fortunate because my disability is manageable.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Throughout history, Native American warriors have given a wide mix of motives for joining the U.S. military. Those include patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality, and spirituality, all mingling with an abiding respect for tribal, familial, and national traditions.
This Veterans Day, explore the complicated ways the Native American culture and traditions have affected their participation in the United States military when The Warrior Tradition airs at 9 pm ET on PBS. The one-hour documentary, co-produced by WNED-TV and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.
The Cold War was the ultimate worldwide, geopolitical game, pitting two disparate ideologies against one another. The battle lines were drawn — and they were clear. In one corner, you had the global Communist bloc and its allies, some perfidious, willing to pit the two superpowers against each other for their own gain. In the other was the West and its allies, defenders of capitalism and democracy (or… at least… they were just not Communists).
For nearly 50 years, this game dominated the world order. It became so ingrained in our brains that, today, it’s still difficult to think of Russia as anything but the Soviet Union, a democracy in name only, just waiting to turn back the clock and surprise us. So we must always be on guard.
Pictured: Chinese foreign policy.
The problem with American foreign policy makers is that they don’t really know if Russia is truly their main adversary these days. Recently, a top CIA Asia expert told the Aspen Security Forum that China was definitely enemy number one, but does not want a direct conflict. China is much more insidious than that. Where the Soviets Russians prefer to openly troll Americans and blatantly defy American objectives, China is subtly undermining American power in strategic locations all over the world. And it has nothing to do with trade disputes.
FBI Director Christopher Wray says China poses the most significant threat to U.S. national security.
“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said. It was a sentiment echoed by many security experts in Aspen — China is ready to replace Russia as a global U.S. competitor and to supplant the U.S. as the economic powerhouse.
China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army in terms of ground forces, the third-largest air force, and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines — all in the process of modernizing and upgrading. The Chinese are also far ahead of the United States in developing hypersonic weapons.
They’re ready for the United States in a way that Russia hasn’t been prepared for in a long, long time.
“I’m sorry Xi, I misheard you. The future is what?”
And this isn’t exactly a new development. While the United States (and now Russia) were engaged in costly wars and interventions all over the world, China has slowly been expanding its worldwide economic footprint and partnerships. Russia has been harassing its neighbors since 2008 in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, China began its Belt and Road Initiative, investing billions in infrastructure to link China with markets from Central Asia to Europe.
While no one was watching, Chinese investment dollars have filled coffers all over the world, bringing once-forgotten economic backwaters into the Chinese sphere of influence at the cost of American prestige. Chinese raw materials will build these developing marketplaces and the Yuan may soon even be the currency of choice. If the Belt and Road Forum takes off, it could even cut Chinese reliance on American markets.
Russia seems more threatening because that’s exactly what the Russians are good at. Vladimir Putin is no fan of the West or NATO and it seems like he takes real delight in NATO’s failures, especially in Ukraine. While hypersonic weapons, an increased nuclear weapons capacity, and a deeper relationship with Bashar al-Assad’s Syria seem like a significant threat (and may well be), the reality is those hypersonic weapons aren’t quite perfect and Syria isn’t going as well as planned.
Meanwhile, China is quietly preparing for the future.
The Israeli Defense Force has been known as one of the world’s best militaries. This is particularly true of its commando units.
In a new move the government hopes will professionalize the force, those elite special operations units will likely become even more effective.
According to a report by IsraelNationalNews.com, usually Israeli conscripts serve three years – pilots have a nine-year service term – and most commandos are extended one year. That will now change, with troops going into commando units now being obligated to serve eight years.
The units affected by this move are the Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13 naval commandos, Shaldag heli-borne commandos, and 669 search-and-rescue unit. The extended term of service, though, will also come with a pay increase of 17.6 percent and an Israeli version of the GI Bill.
The commando units were hard hit by the old policy, since it took anywhere from 18 months to two years to fully train members of these elite units, which are often referred to as “Tier One” units.
This means that the Israeli commando units will operate closer to the model used by elite American and British units like the Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and Special Air Service. In those units, operators are usually career personnel. Both the United States and United Kingdom also have all-volunteer military forces.
Sayeret Matkal is best known for being the unit that carried out the 1976 rescue operation at Entebbe. That operation, commanded by Yonatan Netanyahu (whose younger brother, Benjamin, became prime minister of Israel), rescued 102 out of 106 hostages for the loss of one commando (Yonatan).
Shayetet 13, a unit similar to Navy SEALs, was credited with sinking five Egyptian ships during the Yom Kippur War. Shaldog was credited with taking part in a 2007 air raid on a Syrian nuclear reactor. Unit 669 is similar to the Air Force pararescue units, and in 2003 were noted for rescuing ten Turkish sailors during a storm in the Mediterranean Sea.
These units, already among the best in the world, will now be much better. Israel’s friends will likely rest easier, while Israel’s enemies will probably lose sleep.
Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Trump administration said July 19 in a new report that also noted a decline in the number of terrorist attacks globally between 2015 and 2016.
In its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism,” released July 19, the State Department said Iran was the planet’s “foremost” state sponsor of terrorism in 2016, a dubious distinction the country has held for many years.
It said Iran was firm in its backing of anti-Israel groups as well as proxies that have destabilized already devastating conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It also said Iran continued to recruit in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Shiite militia members to fight in Syria and Iraq. And, it said Iranian support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement was unchanged.
In terms of non-state actors, the report said the Islamic State group was responsible for more attacks and deaths than any other group in 2016, and was seeking to widen its operations particularly as it lost territory in Iraq and Syria. It carried out 20 percent more attacks in Iraq in 2016 compared with 2015, and its affiliates struck in more than 20 countries, according to the report.
Iran has been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the State Department and is subjected to a variety of US sanctions since 1984, and many of the activities outlined in the report are identical to those detailed in previous reports. But, this year’s finding comes as the Trump administration moves to toughen its stance against Iran. The administration is expected to complete a full review of its policy on Iran next month.
President Donald Trump has been particularly critical of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and only reluctantly certified early this week that Iran remained entitled to some sanctions relief under its provisions.
“Iran remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2016 as groups supported by Iran maintained their capability to threaten US interests and allies,” said the report, the Trump administration’s first, which was released just a day after the administration slapped new sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile activity.
Some of those sanctions were imposed on people and companies affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the report said continues to play “a destabilizing role in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.”
Iran used a unit of the IRGC, the Qods Force, “to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East,” the report said. It added that Iran has publicly acknowledged its involvement in Syria and Iraq.
Hezbollah worked closely with Iran to support the attempt by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to maintain and control territory, according to the report. And with Iranian support, Hezbollah continued to develop “long-term attack capabilities and infrastructure around the world,” it said.
The report also accused Iran of supplying weapons, money, and training to militant Shia groups in Bahrain, maintaining a “robust” cyber-terrorism program, and refusing to identify or prosecute senior members of the al-Qaeda network that it has detained.
As in previous reports, Sudan and Syria were also identified as “state sponsors of terrorism.”
In its final days, the Obama administration suspended some sanctions against Sudan in recognition of that country’s improved counter-terrorism record. In early July, the Trump administration extended those suspensions by three months. Countries can be removed from the list at any time following a formal review process, but the report offered no explanation for why Sudan remains on it.
In fact, it said counter-terrorism is now a national priority for the Khartoum government and that Sudan “is a cooperative partner of the United States on counter-terrorism, despite its continued presence on the state sponsors of terrorism list.”
Despite the activities of Iran and groups like the Islamic State in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria, and Boko Haram and al-Shabab in Africa, the total number of terrorist attacks in 2016 decreased by 9 percent from 11,774 in 2015 to 11,072, according to statistics compiled for the report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
That reduction was accompanied by a 13 percent decrease in deaths — from 28,328 to 25,621 — from such attacks over the same period. Of those killed in 2016, 16 were American citizens, including seven in high-profile attacks in Brussels in March and Nice, France, in July. Seventeen Americans were injured in the Brussels attack and three in Nice, the report said.
The report attributed the drops to fewer terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen. At the same time, the report said attacks in the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, and Turkey increased between 2015 and 2016.
On the increasingly crowded battlefields of Afghanistan, a feared, commando-style Taliban unit is gaining attention for a series of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.
Known as “Sara Kheta” — Red Unit or Danger Unit in Pashto — it is said to be the Taliban’s elite special-forces group. Unlike regular Taliban fighters, analysts say the outfit is better trained and armed and is sent on special operations targeting bases and posts of the Afghan National Army and police force.
The so-called Red Unit’s rise has raised concerns among government forces struggling to fend off the Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and suffering record casualty rates on the battlefield.
When did it emerge?
The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighterspublished photos on social media purportedly showing a training camp where recruits were being trained on heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.
In December 2015, the Taliban said it was unleashing its special forces to eliminate fighters allied with the militant group Islamic State (IS) that had emerged in Afghanistan earlier that year.
In August 2016, Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of the Taliban’s Red Unit in the southern province of Helmand.
But the unit has fought its way to greater prominence in the past month or so. On Nov. 1, the Taliban uploaded photos of the unit on its official Telegram account. The photos show members of Red Unit in new uniforms and armed with the kind of tactical assault gear worn by soldiers and law enforcement teams around the world.
Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during whichdozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah.
On Dec. 3, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the commander of the new unit, Mullah Shah Wali, also known Mullah Naser, waskilled in an air operation in Helmand Province the week before.
How is it different from other Taliban units?
“What distinguishes this force from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure,” says Borhan Osman, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).
“The unit is mainly used for quick interventions, high-value targets, special operations, or offensives such as capturing a highly strategic area, breaking major sieges of regular Taliban forces, jailbreaks, and escorting important leaders,” Osman adds.
Military analysts estimate the size of the unit at anywhere from several hundred to up to 1,000 fighters.
Those tactics and capabilities were on show in the November attacks when Afghan officials said the unit, equipped with lasers and night-vision gear, attacked police checkpoints and army bases and rapidly left the scene to avoid NATO air strikes. On Nov. 14, the unit drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a police checkpoint point and then launched attacks on 14 nearby posts, killing over two dozen police officers.
In Farah Province the same day, Taliban units with night-vision scopes killed eight police officers in their beds early in the morning. Three police officers in the province were also killed in night attacks around the same time.
The U.S. military has equipped many Afghan soldiers with night-vision equipment, but police forces rarely possess them.
“The Red Unit and regular Taliban forces use the same types of weapons: small arms, RPGs, and machine guns,” says Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal. “Typically, the Red Unit has newer weapons, and is occasionally seen with night-vision devices that have been seized from Afghan forces.”
The unit is believed to equipped with the Taliban’s most advanced weaponry, including 82-millimeter rockets, laser pointers, heavy machine guns, and U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles. They are also known to have used and possess dozens of armored Humvees and Ford Ranger pickup trucks stolen from Afghan forces.
Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert for the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says it is misleading to call the unit a special-forces outfit because it lacks elite commando capabilities of even the Afghan Special Forces, let alone advanced elite commando units such as the U.S. SEAL Team Six.
“The Red Team is more a heavily armed group used in surprise attacks against vulnerable Afghan security check posts,” he says. “It also has well-trained snipers that aid ordinary Taliban militants in their attack against the Afghan forces.”
The unit has also spread from southern Afghanistan, where it was established, and has expanded into eastern and western regions.
“The Red Unit poses a significant threat to Afghan forces,” Roggio says. “It has had great success on the battlefield when going head to head with Afghan units.”
Roggio says the unit operates like shock troops, often leading assaults on Afghan district centers, military bases, and outposts.
The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has said it has not seen any evidence of the Taliban possessing advanced weaponry like night-vision equipment, which Afghan officials say the militants have purchased on the black market or have accumulated after overrunning Afghan army bases.
But Afghan military officials have confirmed the unit’s capabilities.
Kandahar’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, has said the Red Unit is part of the Taliban’s “new approach and new tactics,” adding that it was “well equipped and highly armed.”
Majidyar says he expects the Red Unit to come under increasing pressure if President Donald Trump relaxes U.S. rules of engagement.
“The Taliban will suffer more significant losses on the battlefield in the coming months,” he predicts.
No matter how well you plan, PCSing is expensive. You’re going to make (at least) 15 trips toTarget to get all the little things you had no way of knowing your new home lacked. You’ll probably be ordering a lot of pizza and eating in restaurants while you wait for your household goods to arrive. And, you’ll be doing all this spending while your family is likely living on just one income. It’s the catch-22 of military spouse life: You can’t afford childcare until you have a job, but how can you search for or accept a job when you can’t afford to pay someone to watch your kids?
Starting this month, soldiers and their families can get extra help with childcare expenses after PCSing from Army Emergency Relief (AER), a non-profit organization that helps soldiers with unplanned financial hardships caused by military service. AER will provide up to 0 per month to qualifying Army families through grants and zero-interest loans to help offset childcare expenses, for up to 90 days following a move.
AER’s assistance goes hand-in-hand with a program all the branches of service have to help families find and pay for childcare. Last year Secretary of the Army Mark Esper (now Secretary of Defense Esper) heard the cries of military families and put together a plan to help families find and pay for childcare. Under Esper’s plan, the Army (and now all the other branches of service, too) pay a subsidy to service members to cover the difference between the cost of childcare in a Child Development Center (CDC) and the cost of a civilian childcare center.
The Army program subsidy, for example, pays up to id=”listicle-2645026519″,500 per child per month. Which, while it may sound like a lot of money, in some areas, for some families, was still not enough. “The childcare piece has always been a struggle for families with young children, especially dual-income families,” said Krista Simpson Anderson, an Army spouse living near Washington, DC, who serves as the Military Spouse Ambassador for AER. “Let’s say your kids are in daycare at the Child Development Center at Ft. Carson, and then you PCS to Ft. Bragg. You don’t automatically get a slot at Bragg. You get put on a waitlist. But you have to have childcare so you can go out and find a new job. The CDCs are usually more affordable than daycares in the community, but you may have to use a community daycare or a babysitter while you wait for a slot at the CDC. This money is intended to help with the difference in cost.”
AER’s CEO, LTG (Ret.) Ray Mason said that even with the Army Fee Assistance program, some families were still experiencing an average of 5 in additional out of pocket expenses for childcare.
AER is funded entirely by donations and distributes grants and loans based on need. So, to get the extra financial assistance, soldiers or their spouses must go to the AER office on their new post and show proof of their income and their monthly expenses.”Individual soldier readiness and spouse employment are top priorities for the Army,” Gen. Mason said. “Providing child care assistance helps soldiers focus on their mission, while also supporting spouses returning quickly to the workforce after they arrive at a new duty station.”
The mission of Got Your Six is to normalize the depiction of veterans on film and television and dispel common myths about the veteran population. Together with partners in the entertainment industry, business, and politics, it casts a wide net of influence and social change.
In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast, Got Your Six executive director Bill Rausch and WATM’s Logan Nye discuss the depiction of veterans in mainstream entertainment.
Bill Rausch is a former Army Major with over 10 years of service, including 17 months in Iraq serving under Gen.s Casey and Petraeus while assigned to the Information Operations Task Force. Prior to joining GY6, Bill was Political Director at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America where he oversaw policy and advocacy campaigns.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz issued a general order Tuesday banning Coasties from entering any business that grows, distributes, sells or otherwise deals with marijuana.
Pot may be legal for various uses in 33 states, but it remains an illicit substance under federal law, and the service’s new general order is designed to send a message to Coast Guard men and women that they should steer clear, officials said during a phone call with Military.com.
Recognizing there has been “a shift in the social norms, especially because of the increased proliferation and availability of cannabis-based products,” Schultz issued the new guidance to eliminate ambiguity, explained Cmdr. Matt Rooney, Policy and Standards Division chief at Coast Guard Headquarters.
“As a military organization, we have to be clear and direct to providing [guidance] to our members,” Rooney said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Five months before the 9/11 attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to one of his advisers with an ominous message.
“Cyberwar,” read the subject line.
“Please take a look at this article,” Rumsfeld wrote, “and tell me what you think I ought to do about it. Thanks.”
Attached was a 38-page paper, published seven months prior, analyzing the consequences of society’s increasing dependence on the internet.
It was April 30, 2001. Optimistic investors and frenzied tech entrepreneurs were still on a high from the dot-com boom. The World Wide Web was spreading fast.
Once America’s enemies got around to fully embracing the internet, the report predicted, it would be weaponized and turned against the homeland.
The internet would be to modern warfare what the airplane was to strategic bombers during World War I.
The paper’s three authors — two PhD graduates and the founder of a cyber defense research center — imagined the damage a hostile foreign power could inflict on the US. They warned of enemies infecting computers with malicious code, and launching mass denial of service attacks that could bring down networks critical to the functioning of the American economy.
“[We] are concerned that US leadership, and other decision-makers about Internet use, do not fully appreciate the potential consequences of the current situation,” the report said. “We have built a network which has no concept whatsoever of national boundaries; in a war, every Internet site is directly on the front line. If we do not change course soon, we will pay a very high price for our lack of foresight.”
The US government had a problem on its hands and it seemed a long ways from figuring out how to handle it.
More than 17 years later, that problem seems to have only gotten worse.
Follow the money
Willie Sutton, the notorious Brooklynite who spent his life in and out of prison, once told a reporter he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Computer hackers aren’t so different.
In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry, according to IBM. Over 200 million financial records were breached that year, a 937% increase from 2015. And that’s not including the incidents that were never made public.
As hackers become more sophisticated and cyber attacks more routine, New York is on notice. Home to the most valuable stock exchange on Earth, New York City is the financial capital of the world. When the market moves here, it moves everywhere.
So it was no surprise when in September 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) was gearing up to implement sweeping, first-of-their-kind cybersecurity regulations to protect the state’s financial services industry — an unprecedented move no other state or federal agency had taken anywhere in the US.
Cybersecurity in New York’s financial industry was previously governed by voluntary frameworks and suggested best practices. But the NYDFS introduced, for the first time, regulations that would be mandatory, including charging firms fines if they didn’t comply.
Maria Vullo, the state’s top financial regulator, told Business Insider that her No. 1 job is to protect New Yorkers.
“They’re buying insurance. They’re banking. They’re engaging in financial transactions. And in each of those activities, they’re providing their social security information, banking information, etc.,” she said. “The companies that are obtaining that personal information from New Yorkers must protect it as much as possible because a breach of that information is of great consequence to the average New Yorker.”
On March 1, the regulations turn a year old, although some of the rules are not yet in effect and will phase in over time.
The NYDFS oversees close to 10,000 state-chartered banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage loan servicers, and other financial institutions, in addition to 300,000 insurance licensees.
The combined assets of those organizations exceed $6 trillion, according to the NYDFS — and they’re all in constant danger of being hacked.
Banks are vulnerable
In the summer of 2014, an American, two Israelis, and two co-conspirators breached a network server of JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank.
They got hold of roughly 83 million customers’ personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.
The hackers didn’t steal any money from personal bank accounts, but that wasn’t the point.
They wanted access to a massive trove of emails that they could use for a larger, separate money scam. In just three years, that operation netted the hackers more than $100 million.
The JPMorgan hack wasn’t the end game. It was a piece of the puzzle.
The attack began with the simple theft of a JPMorgan employee’s login credentials, which were located on a server that required just one password.
Most servers with sensitive information like a person’s banking data require what’s called multi-factor, or two-factor authentication.
But JPMorgan’s security team had lapsed and failed to upgrade the server to include the dual password scheme, The New York Times reported at the time.
The attack, the breach, and the reputational damage that followed could have been avoided with tighter security. Instead, the hack went down as one of the largest thefts of customer data in US history.
“Banks are especially vulnerable,” Matthew Waxman, a professor and the co-chair at Columbia University’s Cybersecurity Center, told Business Insider. “Disruption to the information systems on which banks rely could have shockwaves throughout the financial system, undermining public confidence in banking or knocking off line the ability to engage in commercial transactions.”
That’s the kind of catastrophic damage that worried the authors cited in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s 2001 memo.
They weren’t only concerned about stolen email addresses and social security numbers. They were worried about the fallout from such activity.
Banking works because consumers trust the system. But what if people lose trust?
Waiting until a catastrophe
News of impending cybersecurity regulations in New York in the fall of 2016 was both welcomed and shunned.
Some companies saw it as a chance to improve their own security standards while others complained of government overreach. Some were relieved to find they wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the way they operated. Others were overwhelmed by the heavy lifting they would have to do to comply.
How a company views the regulations depends in large part on its size. Bigger institutions with more cybersecurity professionals and more resources at their disposal tend to already have in place much of what the regulations require. Many smaller companies, which tend to be under-staffed and under-resourced, have a lot more work to do to catch up.
The only additional thing Berkshire Bank has to do is sign off on its annual compliance form, which it sends to NYDFS to prove that it’s doing everything it’s supposed to be doing.
“We actually have to do nothing [new] from a compliance standpoint,” the company’s chief risk officer Gregory Lindenmuth told Business Insider.
While several cybersecurity consultants told Business Insider they acknowledge the NYDFS rules as a positive step in the right direction, they also point to a new law in Europe as a leading example of the role government has to play in protecting individuals’ privacy rights and ensuring that companies secure consumers’ personal information.
In 2016, the European Parliament passed a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — landmark legislation that imposes millions of euros in fines on companies that do not adequately protect their customers’ data.
Whereas the NYDFS regulations cover just one industry in one US state, the GDPR affects companies in all industries across all 28 member states of the European Union. Companies that do not report a data breach or fail to comply with the law more generally could be fined up to €20 million or 4% of its global revenue.
Matthew Waxman, the Columbia professor, says it’s not surprising that the implementation of such a law remains far-fetched in the US.
“It’s sometimes very difficult to get the government to take action against certain threats until a catastrophe takes place,” Waxman said. “But that could change very suddenly if the banking system were knocked offline or another very major disruption to everyday life affected the lives and security of citizens on a massive scale.”
But are the deterrents strong enough?
Data protection advocates calling for stricter cybersecurity regulations in the US are generally happy about the NYDFS rules.
For the first time, a state government is taking seriously the protection of consumer data, they say. It’s giving companies in the financial sector an ultimatum: protect New Yorkers or face punishment.
But the nature of that punishment is not entirely clear.
“My big criticism of the regulations is there’s no clear consequence for non-compliance,” Tom Boyden, a cybersecurity expert who helps companies defend against cyber attacks, told Business Insider. “If companies don’t feel like there’s going to be any consequence for any action on their part, companies aren’t going to take [the regulations] seriously.”
In fact, for many companies, Boyden thinks “that’s the default position.”
Vullo, the head of the NYDFS, said she has the ability to fine companies that are not complying and is willing to exercise that authority, although how much that cost may be would depend case-by-case.
“I don’t want this to be a punitive atmosphere, but obviously if institutions are not taking this seriously, then there will be consequences,” she said. “But it’s not the objective.”
If anything, the objective is to make it clear that cyber threats are real and that New Yorkers and the companies that maintain their personal information are facing higher risks of attack.
Cybersecurity affects everyone, and Vullo said she hopes the regulations will help companies prioritize it.
“Everyone is part of our cybersecurity team,” Theresa Pratt, the chief information security officer at a private trust company in New York, told Business Insider. “It doesn’t matter what myself or my colleagues do from a technical perspective. If I have one user who clicks a bad link or answers a phisher’s question over the phone, it’s all for naught.”
New York leading the way
The new rules have far-reaching implications beyond New York. A business in the state that has a parent company based in Germany, for example, still has to comply with the regulations.
This leaves some organizations in the precarious position of having to either restructure company-wide cybersecurity practices or build an entirely new and unique security apparatus that is specific to its New York offices.
“I do think that because of the scope of some of these regulations, they’re kind of blurring the lines between countries and continents. I think we’re going to see more and more of this,” GreyCastle Security CEO Reg Harnish told Business Insider. The New York-based consulting firm is helping companies comply with the new regulations.
In the absence of leadership from the federal government on certain issues related to cybersecurity and data protection, states like New York are beginning to fill the void. Several cybersecurity experts told Business Insider that the NYDFS regulations could become a model for other industries or even policies at the national level.
In 2017, at least 42 states introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions related to various cybersecurity issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And since the NYDFS rules took effect, financial regulators in Colorado and Vermont have followed New York’s lead with cybersecurity regulations of their own.
Indeed, cyber experts have come a long way in better understanding the threats we face since Rumsfeld’s dire cyberwar memo in 2001. But 17 years on, the former secretary of defense’s concerns still seem as relevant as ever.
Perhaps the memo was a prescient warning — a warning that fell on deaf ears, but is not too late to address.
The day after a collision between the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain (DDG 56) and a tanker in the Strait of Malacca east of Singapore, the Navy is ordering an operational pause.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced the order on a Facebook video as search-and-rescue efforts for 10 missing sailors have been hampered by a storm.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the collision is the third since the beginning of May. That month, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) was struck by a South Korean fishing boat. On June 17 of this year, the McCain’s sister ship, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), collided with a container ship off Japan, killing seven sailors.
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/Released)
“I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure that we are taking all appropriate immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world,” Richardson said, during his video announcement.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis is supporting the investigation, noting that it will address “all factors, not just the immediate ones” surrounding the collisions. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona, the son and grandson of the Navy admirals for whom USS John S. McCain is named, stated that he expects “full transparency and accountability from the Navy” regarding the reviews and investigations.
The John S. McCain has been notable for taking part in “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea this past November. Ironically, the ship suffered the collision with the tanker near an island that is the subject of a dispute between Singapore and Malaysia. A Singaporean helicopter airlifted four casualties off the McCain.
The Strait of Malacca is a notable maritime chokepoint, through which substantial merchant traffic travels, including oil imports for countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. Singapore served as a base for British forces for many years, enabling them to control that chokepoint, much as Gibraltar helps control the western entrance into the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia is seeking to undermine European democracies and sow doubt in the West through malign activities and a “fog of lies,” the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency has told European intelligence chiefs.
In a May 14, 2018 address in Berlin, MI5 chief Andrew Parker said that Russia was carrying out “aggressive and pernicious actions” and risks becoming an “isolated pariah.”
Parker’s address to the gathering hosted by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence service was the first public speech outside Britain by a serving head of the agency.
Parker said that a March 2018 nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a “deliberate and targeted malign activity” on British soil, and one of Moscow’s “flagrant breaches of international rules.”
London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence operative who became an informant for Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, in the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.
Skripal and his daughter were both found unconscious on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation that it was behind the attack.
Parker also condemned what he called a disinformation campaign mounted by Russia following the attack.
He said there was a need “to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths, and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine.”
Skripal, 66, remains in the hospital. His daughter Yulia, 33, and a British police officer injured in the attack have both been discharged from hospital, while an investigation to identify the culprits is under way.
Parker also thanked the international community for its joint response to the incident, with 18 out of 28 European countries agreeing to support Britain in expelling scores of Russian diplomats.
The MI5 chief also said that the Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula cannot be acceptable and neither is meddling in Western elections.
Parker also stressed the importance of post-Brexit security ties, warning that Europe faces an intense and unrelenting terrorist threat.
The extremist group Islamic State is plotting “devastating and more complex attacks,” Parker said.
“The security challenges we are facing are stark, but we will counter them together,” he concluded.
After a chaotic week of unforced errors courtesy of President Donald Trump, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats calmly explained that Russia’s efforts “to undermine our basic values,” “divide us from our allies,” and “wreak havoc with our election process” are “undeniable,” grimly concluding: “We’re under attack.” Noting that “the very pillar…of democracy is the ability to have confidence in your elected officials—that they were elected legitimately,” Coats added, “We have to take every effort to ensure that happens in this upcoming election and future elections.”
Before discussing some of the efforts the U.S. might take in response to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, it’s worth recapping what Moscow has been doing.
Using cyber-technologies, social media, and false-front organizations, Russia has carried out strategic-influence operations targeting political-electoral systems in 27 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and several other NATO allies.
Freedom House reports that Russia has “deepened its interference in elections in established democracies through…theft and publication of the internal documents of mainstream parties and candidates, and the aggressive dissemination of fake news and propaganda.” Kristofer Harrison, who worked in the State Department and Defense Department during the administration of President George W. Bush, points to examples at Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times and other reputable news organizations.
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Fountain Hills, Arizona, before the March 22, 2016 primary.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Moscow’s goal in these actions, according to a U.S. intelligence report, is to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.” Moscow may be succeeding.
A plurality of Americans (45 percent) believe Russia leaked hacked material to impact the 2016 election, and 68 percent of Americans express concern that Russia will interfere in future elections. Beyond the U.S., just glance at recent headlines: “Russian hackers are targeting Macron,” blares a France24 report. “Russia used Twitter bots and trolls ‘to disrupt’ Brexit vote,” reads a headline from The Times of London. “Merkel warns of Russian cyberattacks in German elections,” Deutsche Welle adds.
Add it all up, and both the evidence of Russian interference and the worry regarding future interference serves to undermine democratic institutions all across the West.
In this light, NSC-68, the pivotal national-security document penned in 1950 that provided a roadmap for waging the Cold War, seems strangely relevant. NSC-68 noted that Moscow’s “preferred technique is to subvert by infiltration and intimidation,” that “every institution of our society is an instrument which it is sought to stultify and turn against our purposes,” that institutions “that touch most closely our material and moral strength are obviously the prime targets,” that Moscow’s objective is to prevent those institutions “from serving our ends and thus to make them sources of confusion in our economy, our culture and our body politic.”
Yes, NSC-68 was a response to the communist Soviet Union. However, it pays to recall that post-Soviet, post-communist Russia is led by a former KGB intelligence officer who was trained in the dark arts of disinformation and influence manipulation. His intelligence agencies and cyber-soldiers have triggered a cascade of scandals that are paralyzing our government, sowing confusion and undermining public confidence in our institutions.
Consider: Russia’s hacking into U.S. political campaigns, manipulation of social media and use of weaponized leaks first eroded support for the Clinton campaign; then undermined the legitimacy of the Trump administration; and finally, as former CIA official Mark Kelton concludes, helped “advance Putin’s over-arching goals of degrading American power, denigrating American ideals, and driving a wedge between President Trump and the U.S. intelligence community.”
President Barack Obama’s too little, too late and toothless “cut it out” warning to Putin as well as Trump’s obsequious echo of Putin’s promise that “it’s not Russia…I don’t see any reason why it would be” have failed to address this threat. Both leaders have overlooked a basic truth in dealing with dictators: All that matters when interacting with Putin, and his kind are actions — theirs and ours. What Churchill said of his Russian counterparts remains true of Putin and his puppets. “There is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness.”
Barack Obama meets with Vladimir Putin outside Moscow, Russia on July 7, 2009.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Here are some pathways policymakers could take to change Putin’s calculus and raise the costs of his malign actions.
1. Defend the Homefront against Foreign Intrigue
In his farewell address, Washington warned about the “insidious wiles of foreign influence” and the “mischiefs of foreign intrigue,” urging his countrymen “to be constantly awake” to such dangers.
The good news amidst all the troubling news is that key institutions—Congress, federal and state agencies, and the press—have been awakened to the dangers posed by Russia’s strategic-influence operations. Day by day, these institutions are exploring and exposing Russian intrusion into the U.S. political system.
Several Senate and House committees are investigating Russia’s reach, which is altogether appropriate. But to restore and preserve the integrity of America’s institutions, Congress should create a joint committee of seasoned members—with fact-finding and legislative authority—dedicated to a) monitoring, investigating and exposing attempts by Russia and other foreign entities to interfere in the U.S. political-electoral system; b) identifying individuals and entities in the U.S. that collaborate with or work on behalf of hostile governments like Russia; and c) securing necessary, sustained funding to help state and county election agencies shield themselves from foreign intrusion.
That last point highlights the genius of America’s decentralized election system. Its highly diffuse nature—with the electoral process governed not by some national agency, but rather by 50 states and 3,141 counties—makes it difficult for a foreign power to manipulate outcomes. Even so, evidence of Russian efforts to penetratelocal election systems and acquire firms that handle voter-registration data are raising flags. Federal resources can help expose these efforts and harden these targets.
2. Take the Fight to Russia
Even as they stand up their new committee—call it the Joint Select Committee on Election Integrity—congressional leaders should reopen the U.S. Information Agency, which was shut down in 1999, after decades of countering Moscow’s Cold War propaganda. Former DNI James Clapper proposes “a USIA on steroids to fight this information war a lot more aggressively than we’re doing right now.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.
Likewise, NATO commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti urges Washington to “bring the information aspects of our national power more fully to bear on Russia.” He recommends strengthening and unleashing the Russian Information Group (a joint effort of U.S European Command and the State Department) and the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (a project charged with countering foreign disinformation).
Further up the ladder, the United States could respond in kind to Putin’s assault on the West’s political systems. It’s not difficult to imagine the U.S. executing a cyber-operation that turns Putin’s stage-managed elections into a full-blown farce: returns showing Leonid Brezhnev finishing second or Czar Nicholas II winning a few oblasts or no one at all winning. Putin would get the message.
3. Shore up the Infrastructure
Arguing that democracy “needs cultivating,” President Ronald Reagan helped create the National Endowment for Democracy “to foster the infrastructure of democracy.”
Similarly, perhaps it’s time for the world’s foremost groupings of democratic nations—the G-7, European Union, NATO and its partners in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia—to create a pool of resources to reinforce and rebuild the infrastructure of liberal democracy, monitor and expose Moscow’s cyber-siege of the West, and help those countries under information-warfare assault preserve the integrity of their democratic institutions.
4. Deploy Additional Instruments of National Power
Finally, the United States should offer moral support to democracy inside Russia and along Russia’s periphery. “A little less détente,” as Reagan argued, “and more encouragement to the dissenters might be worth a lot of armored divisions.”
Toward that end, Washington should provide a sturdy platform to human-rights activists, journalists and political dissidents from Russia; use high-profile settings to highlight Russia’s democracy deficit; and draw attention—relentlessly and repeatedly—to Putin’s assaults on human rights, civil society, religious liberty and political pluralism.
To his credit, Trump took this very tack vis-à-vis North Korea during his 2018 State of the Union address. It’s time to use the bully pulpit in the same way against Putin. If the president is unable or unwilling to do so, leaders in Congress and at relevant agencies must fill the vacuum, as Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray recently have.
Hard-power tools can serve as an exclamation point to these words: More defensive weaponry could flow to Ukraine to protect Ukraine’s fragile democracy; rotational deployments in the Baltics and Poland could be made permanent to reassure NATO’s easternmost members; NATO could stand up an Allied Command-Arctic to checkmate Putin’s next landgrab; the U.S. could deploy its vast energy reserves, in Gen. Martin Dempsey’s words, “as an instrument of national power” to make Russia’s oligarchs feel the consequences of Putin’s actions.
Revelations of Russian interference are troubling. But they are also clarifying. In light of its actions, there should be no question as to whether Putin’s Russia is a friend, no illusions that Putin can be mollified by promises of “resets” or post-election “flexibility,” no doubts about Moscow’s motives, no debate over the threat posed by a revisionist Russia.
The task ahead is to fully expose Russia’s reach into our political system, strengthen our institutions to harden them against another wave of foreign influence, and defend liberal democracy at home and abroad.